(Also see Mixed Species Aviaries and Softbills & Weather)
Various Types of Housing
There is no one size fits all when dealing with softbill housing since there are so many different types of softbills. Some softbills require large areas, and some can be housed in smaller ones. A softbiller does not need to invest huge amounts of space or money to keep many softbill species. New to softbills? Never fear! Small and inexpensive can work.
Most softbills are primarily kept for people to observe their beauty, voices, and behaviors in natural looking environments. Unlike parrots which are usually kept in bare suspended cages, softbills can be housed in small or large flight cages or aviaries that are planted and usually extend to the ground or floor. Such enclosures can rival the best modern zoological exhibits. Even smaller caged softbills can have potted plants. Softbill enclosures are sources of hours of relaxation and enjoyment to their viewers.
The important things to consider for softbill housing:
- the activities and characteristics of the bird (is it a flyer?…a runner?…a climber?…a ground bird?…a nervous type?…etc.)
- size of the bird (it should be able to move freely and naturally in the space)
- other occupants (will the birds conflict in the use of space?…is there enough space for all?…will aggression during breeding season be a problem?…etc. Be sure to see our Mixed Species Aviaries page. )
- cleanliness (how easy is the housing to keep clean?…how are perches and food dishes arranged?…what kind of substrate is used?…etc.)
- protection from elements (from intense sun, heat, cold, rain, wind)
- winterizing enclosures (how will it be heated?)
- ventilation (softbill feces mold quickly, fresh air is a must)
Several species of softbills are small enough that they can be housed in cages indoors. Mousebirds, honeycreepers, tanagers, etc. can live and even breed in cockatiel/small parrot size cages. Toucanettes and mynahs can be housed in macaw/large parrot cages. Handraised birds that are calm around people can be taken out of the cages for exercise. Cages are easy to clean, the birds are protected from the elements, but the main drawback is the size or personality of the bird that can be housed this way.
Having a room inside converted into an aviary is relatively easy and cheap, while providing the birds space to fly and protection from the elements. Substrates can be newspaper, wood chips, artificial grass, etc. The hardest thing is to make it easily cleanable and well ventilated.
If you have any extra space outside and love nature, an outside aviary is for you. Outside aviaries can be any size; big or small. They are typically more expensive to build and harder to protect from the elements, but the easiest to keep clean and ventilated. Take into consideration the climate and pests/predators of your area carefully.
Carefully plan how the aviary and its inhabitants are to be protected from the elements. Building aviaries with winterizing in mind reduces lots of headache in cold weather. Most softbill birds can take temperatures in the 40’s degree Fah., and short dips into the high 30’s, but temperatures lower than that, especially under freezing, can cause severe frostbite issues and death. Wind chill, rain, and high humidity add to the problem of keeping birds warm. Also, the birds are not always smart about using heat lamps.
Plan for protection against pests such as mice and predators such as hawks. Attach a double door system to any outside aviary to help ensure that no birds escape.
Aviaries can be framed in wood (cheaper) or aluminum (more expensive). A variety of hardware cloth and wire screen choices are available. Substrates can be dirt, gravel, sand, and (our favorite) decomposed granite. Plants can be easily used and create natural-type environments for your birds.
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Copyright 07/09 Kateri Davis